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09 January 2020

Australia's law firms step up efforts to help bushfire victims as crisis grows

King & Wood Mallesons, Ashurst, Herbert Smith Freehills and Gilbert & Tobin among firms providing aid

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The Law Council of Australia has called on the country’s lawyers to offer pro bono legal advice to bushfire victims as business law firms step up their support in the face of the growing national crisis. “As a profession, we are uniquely placed to support victims as they require legal advice, and every lawyer should consider pro bono aid for those affected,” Pauline Wright, president of the Law Council of Australia, said in a statement this week.

“It’s heartening to see that so many individuals in the profession have stepped up with offers of pro bono assistance.”

While state law societies are co-ordinating pro bono help for victims, the country’s largest practices are providing their own assistance.

King & Wood Mallesons, Ashurst, Herbert Smith Freehills and Gilbert & Tobin are among the many professional service firms providing aid, according to research by Financial Review.

Commitments made by these and other firms include paid donations, fundraising, unlimited leave for volunteers and army reservists and pro bono work.

In New South Wales, where more than 20 people have been killed and more than 2,000 homes destroyed, the Law Society of New South Wales and New South Wales Bar Association are helping to co-ordinate the Disaster Response Legal Service NSW, which is providing free advice to people affected by the bushfires.

“In this time of great tragedy, we need to do all we can, as members of the NSW community and the legal profession, to assist those impacted by the bushfires who have lost so much,” said Law Society of NSW president Richard Harvey.

He added that the society was also on hand to assist solicitors affected by the fires.

“We also acknowledge that many of our solicitors live in regional communities that have been devastated by the fires or are still under threat,” he said. “It’s very likely some of our members have had their homes, practices or property damaged or destroyed in the fires.”

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